Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

I STEP OVER the chrome faucet. A pair of bulging eyes meet mine. It's a friendly lizard. Welcome to the Caribbean. As I arrived in Trinidad the other day, I realized that Prabhupada wants us to serve him by preaching. I often say I am serving him, but sometimes it sounds only official. The other day I really felt it Prabhupada does want us to preach widely, to sit down and talk with people, to come to places like Trinidad and Guyana and Santo Domingo. Tonight I will speak to Trinidadian devotees on our inability in Krsna consciousness and on longing for the pure state. Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Narottama Dasa Thakura have explained these things to us through their songs.

* * *

We drove to the airport at 3:00 this morning to catch our 4:20 A.M. flight to Guyana. I plan to speak on Manah-siksa, Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami's "Prayers to the Mind." The Guyanese audiences are already familiar with Krsna conscious philosophy, but they don't need novel topics the people are also easily satisfied. (Such a strange hour to travel; the plane is almost empty, but it's the only flight.) Entering Guyana requires more paperwork than most countries: Form C-14A, a declaration of how much money you are carrying, plus two other forms. The government acts as if it is a great privilege to enter the country, although the place is rough and undeveloped.

* * *

After my lecture, one devotee asked, "How can we relate to Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami, who was so advanced in his desire to give intense and extraordinary love to his spiritual master, to Krsna's abode and its residents, to the holy name, and to Sri Sri Radha-Krsna?" I told him that the spiritual master will teach us how to apply Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami's exalted sentiments even to our own lowly state. In addition to hearing Manah-siksa, we also need to hear from our own initiating and instructing gurus.

For example, Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami instructs his mind to give up all pride. Often we are not even aware that our minds are filled with pride. We have to examine ourselves. We tend to think we are the best lecturer or best kirtana leader or best floor sweeper. Krsna is so kind that He reciprocates with our pride and allows us to feel some satisfaction with our own talking or singing or sweeping but He does not give us the pure nectar of the holy name. For that we have to give up all pride. The spiritual master can direct us in our vigilance in following the instructions of Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami.

* * *

The breeze blows through the open slats of the window in the temple. O Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your service.

Be dum dum dum, be dum dum dum from the neighbor's house, a reggae bass line reverberates this Sunday night as the last rays of red disappear in the west and the last guests are leaving the Sunday Feast. Feasts end early here so guests can travel home before it gets dark.

How to chant with devotion, intent, praying to pay attention and call for the Lord to appear in my chanting on my beads? Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that inattentive chanting is the cause of all other offenses. One is inattentive because his mind is attracted to other things, to material desires. One is lazy. The quota of chanting assigned by the guru becomes difficult to complete because of lack of taste.

When I gave the Srimad-Bhagavatam class this morning, I tried for jokes. The audience is easy to provoke into laughter, but mine were serious little jokes laughing at our foibles in attentive chanting. Much of the humor was at my own expense; it was a veiled account of me as a jaundiced, inattentive chanter. Rupa Gosvami says that the essence of all advice is to chant and hear twenty-four hours a day and to live in Vrndavana, Krsna's abode. How can we all run to Vrndavana when we have Prabhupada's charge to spread his mission? Rupa Gosvami tells us, then, to live in Vrndavana in our minds.

* * *

Water running outdoors. Devotees bathe in the backyard, drawing rain water from a tank. Roosters crow. Last night, I heard a man in the neighborhood crying out for help.

Last night's flowers are wilted. I can hear devotees chanting their beads next door and in the room below this one a beehive of chanters.

Tomorrow we travel to New Panihati, our Guyana farm, in Berbice. The journey takes three and a half hours, maybe four, depending on how long we have to wait for the ferry. The ferry people publish schedules, but devotees don't consult them because the real schedules are so erratic.

* * *

Luckily, we didn't have to wait long for the ferry. Guyana is a nation of blacks and Hindus. A few tired-looking whites board the ferry, possibly businessmen or missionaries.

Two men and a woman carry onto the ferry a varnished coffin. By their casual behavior, I assume it's empty. The lady uses the coffin as a seat.

On the way to the ferry I read Vilapa-kusuma-jali by Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami. I felt the presence of Rupa Gosvami, the land of Vrndavana, the hopes expressed by the author. "For me, somehow, the present moment is flooded by a nectar ocean of many hopes. If You [Radharani] do not give Your mercy, then what use to me are this life, the land of Vrndavana, and Sri Krsna, the enemy of Baka? … If You will not give Your great mercy to suffering me, then what is the use of all the worlds?"

As we travel out on the dark waters, I think of how the River Yamuna is often described as dark. Yamuna and Krsna are the dark color called syama. I look up and a pair of eyes are examining me, curious about what I am doing. I look the other way over the steel boat rails to my dark Yamuna.

* * *

We arrived at New Panihati and saw the beautiful forms of Radha-Krsna, Radha-Gokulacandra. Radharani offers blessings to the devotees with Her upraised hand.

I would like to encourage the devotees to stick to the poor earth of Berbice, where the canal runs by the front door and the jungle is just off in the distance. This can all be Vrndavana because the center of their lives is service to Radha-Gokulacandra. This canal can be the flowing Yamuna and the jungle can be the forest of Vrndavana.

And the mosquitoes? Well, it takes a little imagination. Or rather, it takes meditation and determination. Krsna says, "For one who always remembers Me without deviation, I am easy to obtain … because of his constant engagement in devotional service" (Bhagavad-gita 8.14). In the purport, Srila Prabhupada says a devotee serves, anywhere and anytime, with-out impediments. "Some say that the devotee should remain in holy places like Vrndavana, … but a pure devotee can live anywhere and create the atmosphere of Vrndavana by his devotional service."

Toward the end of my lecture, the western horizon blazed red. The sun was setting in what seemed a small area of the sky. Flat against the land, the sky was a deep, fiery red.

The soft breeze is welcome after the day's heat. Guyana seems so backward in some ways. This temple is in such an isolated place. Few people walk by and the canal provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

But it is all a matter of consciousness. According to Rupa Gosvami, we are meant to live in Vrndavana.

By proper consciousness and association, we can be transported from Berbice, Guyana, to the land of Vrndavana.

Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.